Till Death Do Us Part: Intersecting Health and Spousal Dementia Caregiving on Caregiver Mortality

We consider whether it is the healthiest dementia caregivers who experience a mortality benefit and whether a protective association is consistent for leading causes of mortality.

Using the Health and Retirement study (2000-2012), Cox survival models predict time to death for dementia caregivers, including an interaction between dementia caregiver status and self-rated health. The nationally representative sample consisted of 10,650 married adults aged 51 or older (917 dementia caregivers).

A significant interaction between dementia caregiver status and self-rated health suggested that relative to noncaregivers, dementia caregivers had reduced mortality, with this effect particularly strong at lower levels of self-rated health. The protective effect of dementia caregiver status was consistent across death by heart disease, cancer, and cerebrovascular disease.

These findings add to a growing body of literature suggesting that caregiving may provide a mortality benefit and a reason to maintain health.